This file contains a scanned copy of the 1905 book "The Immortal 600". Also included are summaries of two captives: David TerrellHarris and William Epps. Extracts from the diary of William Epps are also included.
The Immortal 600 were Confederate officers captured by Union soldiers and used as a human shield against Rebel fire.
It started in the summer of 1864 when the Confederates transferred several hundred prisoners from Andersonville in Georgia to Charleston, S.C. The Federals took this to mean the Rebels were placing the Union prisoners in harm's way because Charleston was a key target in the Civil War.
So Union Gen. John Foster threatened to retaliate by placing Confederate prisoners on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, which was under shelling by the Confederates. The order actually came from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and 600 Rebel prisoners were transferred from Fort Delaware.
The Confederate prisoners actually greeted the transfer as good news. They were going back South, hoping that it might be a prisoner exchange. The officers were boarded on the Crescent City, which ran aground north of Charleston. While the ship was stalled, some Confederates tried twice to escape, but failed.
Gen. Foster continued to threaten Gen. Samuel Jones of the Confederates that he would place the Rebel officers in the line of their fire if the Union prisoners in Charleston weren't removed. The Confederates answered that the prisoners were relocated to better conditions from Andersonville, where many had died. They also claimed the Federals knew where the Union prisoners were and could avoid shelling that location.
Nevertheless, Foster had the Rebel prisoners tied hand and foot and placed in front of his guns so the Confederates couldn't fire at them, and he could continue to shell Charleston at will.
The Confederates, however, continued their shelling of Morris Island, and it is said not one prisoner was killed or wounded. However, there were claims that Federal guards did shoot some of the Rebel officers.
The shelling went on for 45 days until the Confederates moved their Union prisoners to Columbia, S.C., because of a yellow fever epidemic. The Union response to that was increased shelling of Charleston without moving the Rebel prisoners.
But as Gen. Sherman and his Union troops neared Charleston, Foster was ordered to silence the artillery. This prompted him to seek an exchange of prisoners, but they were ordered to Fort Pulaski outside Savannah instead.
The winter of 1865 turned out to be severe, and the conditions at Pulaski were said to be poor. Thirteen of the Confederate officers died there. After the war, prisoners wrote of lack of food and clothing, dysentery, scurvy and dehydration.
Survivors finally were transferred to Virginia. Some were exchanged, but nearly 300 were returned to Fort Delaware to wait until they were healthier. Some historians believe the Federals didn't want to be embarrassed by the Confederate officers' condition because they had complained about treatment of Union prisoners at Andersonville.
The last of the "Immortal 600" won their release in July 1865. The South honored them as heroes because they refused to take an Oath of Allegiance until the war ended. Those who survived began calling themselves "The Immortal Six Hundred," and that name was perpetuated in a book by the same name by John O. Murray. Murray wrote about his experiences as one of the 600 in 1905.